History & Geography
Salvia divinorum is used by indigenous shamanic healers as a sacred medicine. Native to the Sierra Madre mountains in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, these healers are called curanderos, in Mazatec they are called cho-ta-ci-ne (one who knows). They use it when they consider a situation in need of them going into the supernatural world to discover the "true cause" of a patient's trouble. It can also be used to find the location of missing or stolen objects. Sometimes only the curandero uses it, sometimes they give it to their patient, and sometimes they take it together. Its use is lightly touched upon in antropological literature as used also by the Cuicatecs and Chinatecs. It is easily propogated so it is a suprise that its use and growth is not more widely spread than this small geographic area.
"One has to be very delicate with Pastora. It is the most dangerous plant we have," Aurelia Catarino Oseguera, a Mazatec-speaking 56-year-old shaman told Associated Press, "it opens doors in your head that let you see God, and that can be frightening."1 Some herbal healers say that when rubbed on the skin, Salvia can heal burns and make scars disappear, not to mention its headache-curing abilities.
What to Expect
Noise and distraction will interfere with the trip. Some sounds become grating on the nerves. Your conception of sound's representation may be significantly altered. The buzz of a refridgerator may become the table at which you are sitting in another universe. Some mental preperation is required for some people. There are no absolutes. Knowledge of quantum theory may aid the novice in understanding their mental states while besaged. Salvia divinorum is <u>not</u> a recreational drug. Use at partys, raves, around people you do not know, in public, and at concerts will in general be unproductive, if not maddening. Though there are always exceptions to any rule, it is best at the introductory level to not attempt use in any of the above situations.
First-time users should always have a sitter. If you are venturing into higher concentrations via tinctures or extracts, a sober sitter is important to insure you do not knock over lit candles, walk out a window, etc. Reality is separated on layers, and the user may not be on the same layer as the sitter.
Refering to trip reports is the best way to get an idea of what the salvia experience is like for a multitude of individuals. Factual information like this document may not be sufficient to prepare one for answering the question, "Is salvia right for me?" Consult Erowid or the Lycaeum if you are interested in a broad perspective of the variety of human experience.
the S-A-L-V-I-A scale (this portion taken from a document in the public domain2)
Salvia trips seem to occur in levels. The so-called S-A-L-V-I-A scale has been constructed to rate trips. Each letter of the word SALVIA stands for another level of tripping. The scale describes six different levels of intoxication, each one more intense than the previous. The overall intensity of Salvia trips is scored according to the highest scale level attained during the course of the trip.
Methods of Use
Level - 1
"S" stands for SUBTLE effects. A feeling that "something" is happening, although it is difficulty to say just what. Relaxation and increased sensual appreciation may be noted. This mild level is useful for meditation and may facilitate sexual pleasure.
Level - 2
"A" stands for ALTERED perception. Colors and textures are more pronounced. Appreciation of music may be enhanced (or made more difficult, as the nature of static may take new forms). Space may appear of greater or lesser depth than is usual. But visions do not occur at this level. Thinking becomes less logical, and more playful; short-term memory difficulties may be noted.
Level - 3
"L" stands for LIGHT visionary state. Closed-eye visuals (clear imagery with eyes closed: fractal patterns, vine-like and geometric patterns, visions of objects and designs). The imagery is often two dimensional. If open-eyed visual effects occur, these are usually vague and fleeting. At this level, phenomena similar to the hypnagogic phenomena that some people experience at sleep onset occur. At this level, visions are experienced as "eye candy" but are not confused with reality.
Level - 4
"V" stands for VIVID visionary state. Complex three-dimensional realistic appearing scenes occur. Sometimes voices may be heard. With eyes open, contact with consensual reality will not be entirely lost, but when you close your eyes you may forget about consensus reality and enter completely into a dreamlike scene. Shamanistic journeying to other lands--foreign or imaginary; encounters with beings (entities, spirits) or travels to other ages may occur. You may even live the life of another person. At this level you have entered the shaman's world. Or if you prefer: you are in "dream time." With eyes closed, you experience fantasies (dream like happenings with a story line to them). So long as your eyes are closed you may believe they are really occurring. This differs from the "eye candy" closed-eye imagery, of level 3.
Level - 5
"I" stands for IMMATERIAL existence. At this level one may no longer be aware of having a body. Consciousness remains and some thought processes are still lucid, but one becomes completely involved in inner experience and looses all contact with consensual reality. Individuality may be lost; one experiences merging with God/dess, mind, universal consciousness, or bizarre fusions with other objects--real or imagined (e.g. experiences such as merging with a wall or piece of furniture). At this level it is impossible to function in consensual reality, but unfortunately some people do not remain still but move around in this befuddled state. For this reason a sitter is essential to ensure the safety of someone voyaging to these deep levels. To the person experiencing this the phenomenon may be terrifying or exceedingly pleasant; but to an outside observer the individual may appear confused or disoriented.
Level - 6
"A" stands for AMNESIC effects. At this stage, either consciousness is lost, or at least one is unable to later recall what one had experienced. The individual may fall, or remain immobile or thrash around; somnambulistic behavior may occur. Injuries can be sustained without pain being felt; on awakening, the individual will have no recollection of what he/she did, experienced, or said in level 6. People cannot recall what they experience in this very deep trance state. This is not a desirable level, because nothing can latter be recalled of the experience.
Traditional Mazatec Methods
In a dark room, water-based drink created from ground fresh leaves is consumed, requiring a lot of leaves and tastes somewhat unpleasant and besides, salvia is very poorly absorbed by stomach ingestion. Trips last the longest from this method, though. The other traditional method employed by the Mazatecs is chewing and swallowing a large number of fresh leaves. Nibble the leaves for a 1/2 hour, the salvinorin absorbed by the tissues of the mouth will be the primary activator.
The Quid Method
Quids (a ball or cylinder of rolled-up leaves) are made from fresh or dried leaves, with the dried preperations being less bitter. Weigh out 2-8 grams or 8-28 large leaves and set them in a cool bowl of water for 10 minutes. Remove and squeeze the excess water out, and ball them into a quid. You can sweeten the quid with honey or sugar. Chew the quid slowly--one chew every 10 seconds. While not chewing, place the quid under your tongue. Continue this for half an hour, allowing the juices and quid to remain in your mouth, without spitting or swallowing if possible. Then when the duration is up, spit it all out.
One can increase the effect of the quid method by treating their mouth with a toothbrush and a mouthwash containing alcohol and menthol, like Cool Mint Listerine. Gently brush the lining of your mouth, the tissue under your tongue, removing the dead cells normally present. Do not make your mouth bleed. Rinse for 30 seconds, insuring that the mouthwash gets everywhere in your mouth. Rinse with water.
In the first 12-15 minutes of chewing you will likely experience nothing. Don't be misled. Full effects are usually felt 30 minutes into the chewing, remaining on this level for 20 minutes or more.
One of the most important aspects of trying to smoke salvia is heat. For some plain leaf is not adequate to reach beyond the most basic effects, thus the appearance of extracts. Smoke must be inhaled deeply and quickly. It is best to hold a flame immediatly above the leaves, drawing it down the entire time you inhale. Because of these high temperatures and the density of salvia smoke, it is best to use a bong or water pipe. Do not use matches. It is important while smoking that you have a sitter because often you will forget at onset what exactly you were doing. You might drop and spill the pipe. First effects will become apparent within a minute. After five or six minutes the effects generally subside. Sometimes it will last up to an hour. For some untreated leaf will immediatly send them into salviaspace, a place of laughter, reality molding and general insanity. What produces a level-3 trip for one can produce none for the other.
Some anecdotal evidence suggests that smoking without water filtration produces stronger effects. This makes sense, as salvia is known to lose its effects when in combination with water. Water is still recommended for those who cannot deal with the harshness of thick smoke.
A vaporizer can also be used, but with caution. This is the only way to reach certain level 5 and level 6 experiences and is not recommended for someone unexperienced with salvia.
There are 5x, 7x, and 10x extracts available from on-line dealers and occaisonal headshops. The selling from headshops is looked down upon by most of the salvia community. 5x extract is 5 times as powerful as standard leaf. Buyer beware.
Daniel Siebert sells a tincture by the name of Sage Goddess Emerald Essence ®. One puts this in their mouth, either diluted or pure, and allows it to absorb under the tongue and in the tissues, similar to a quid. It irritates the mouth due to high-alcohol content. This is why it is often diluted in water. Instructions for its use is included when it is ordered. It is expensive, but perfect for use in prolonged journeys. Sublingual application is fun, but difficult to correctly perform. It is available for sale at his site, which can be found in the on-line resources section of this write up.
The active substance of Salvia divinorum is salvinorin A. It is the most potent naturally occuring vision-inducer. It is not an alkaloid, containing only oxygen, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. it is a neoclerodane diterpenoid. Sensitivity varies from person to person, and 250 micrograms produce threshold effects. Swallowing is the least effective method of consumption. When utilizing pure salvinorin, safety should be the primary concern. NEVER WEIGH DOSAGE VISUALLY when using the pure substance. If you want to learn more about salvirorin's effects and chemistry consult: J Psychoactive Drugs 1994 Jul;26(3):277-283 Salvia divinorum and the unique diterpene hallucinogen, Salvinorin (divinorin) A. Valdes LJ 3rd.
The Plant, Itself
It looks like your normal houseplant. It has a green rectangular main stem from which nodes stem in alternate fashion. The leaves can be quite large and veiny. It is pleasant and inconspicuous. It has a "mouse-but-minty" aroma. It is a semi-tropical perennial, growing every year as long as you don't get it frosty. It can grow to be several meters high. It can flower (white flowers, purple calyces) but rarely sets seed. However, it can be propogated by cuttings. This is why it is popular and essential that salvia grower's share their plants. The leaves are emerald green, oval, and covered with fine hairs that give a satin-like appearance. They love water grow best in partial shade and well-drained soil. It is fun to grow Salvia.
Personal Notes on Salvia Divinorum
This is simply the most amazing substance that has ever entered into my body. I treat it with the highest reverence, and have thus only used it a handful of times. It has taken the world that I have known, ripped it into bits and pieces, taught me that it is possible to feel, think, and exist in a totally separate way than what my words could ever intone, that the words and feelings that we are accustomed to feeling and interpreting in this world--that the reality most people find consensual is only one reality of many, and that there really is truth in spirituality. I'd encountered a great deal of weird phenomena in my life before, but nothing prepared me for the teachings of this plant. The first few times I "went under" I was sure I could never face the real world again, knowing what I now knew. These feelings eventually subsided, integrated and now I walk amongst the people again. I simultaneously am attracted, obsessed, and deeply afraid of this plant, its mysteries, its histories and its stories.
I think there is nothing more important in its research than so-called trip reports. Reading them and writing them are the most direct way to not only get a feeling of what the plant and the human mind/soul are capable of, but also in understanding what is really going on here. I try my best to filter my experiences into my fiction, hoping that someday people will be able to read and find little bits of truth here and there that will help them to cope with the universe. I find that salvia helps me understand complex subjects like quantum theory, psychology, social engineering, advertising, even September 11, 2001.
With that said, it is imperative that any person wanting to try salvia read all that they can prior to its use. Safety is a priority, and keeping it legal is going to be a battle in the next few years, with Australia recently scheduling the substance on the same level as heroin. This is not a recreational drug, and has been low on the cultural radar until recently. Consumerism and profiteering have found its way into the substance's distribution, endangering its legality. It can now be found at headshops, usually without any instructions for its use. It is often sold as a marijuanna-substitute, for which it most CERTAINLY is not. Before sharing with friends, before trying it yourself, seek information about its use. Read more than just this writeup. And please, do not give it to anyone you know who has psychotic episodes or has a history of violence or stupidity. This is not to be taken lightly. It is for those who want to see a little more clearly, who are not satisfied with the senses and world around them. For those who have a calling to something higher. Of course, for some people it will be none of these things, and that's fine. Nothing is anything, anyway, only what you make it.
Legality in the United States
FACT: The DEA branch of the U.S. government says this about salvia: "Chemically, Salvinorin A is a neoclerodane diterpene, a psychotropic terpeniod. There are at least two types of terpenoids differentiated by the presence or absence of nitrogen. The nitrogen-containing terpenoids are called "thujones". The grouping of "thujones" includes Salvia Divinorum, Absinth (wormwood), and tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) found in marijuana... Salvia is being smoked to induce hallucinations similar to the other thujone derivatives, such as THC... Salvia Divinorum, Salvinorin A, and Divinorin A are not listed in the Controlled Substances Act. If sold for human consumption, Salvia may be subject to control under the Analogue statutes because of its functional pharmacological similarities to other CI hallucinogens like THC."
FACT: The U.S. government is LYING and/or MISTAKEN. a. Salvia is not a thujone, it is a diterpene. b. Neither is THC, it is a cannabinol. c. Thujone is a monoterpene. They do say these things in the above statements, but they mix up their chain of relation. Some of their chains are mutually exclusive. Consult the DEA. Consult Daniel Siebert's website for a truth.
Online Resources of Information
SalviaD - Daniel Siebert often posts to this list, as well as scientific experts of the field. Often trip reports are posted as well. Discussion ranges from basic questions to more advanced topics, to questions regarding reality. 960 members.
SkaMariaPastora - Discussions of more spirtual relationships with the plant. "This dicussion will hopefully enlighten many to the wonders of this divine sage. Help keep it available by having church meetings. Support by sharing personal verses and historical facts about the spiritual use of Salvia Divinorum. Grow stronger in your life and learn many new things about yourself by following the teachings of Ska Maria Pastora." 219 members.
SalviaDAlliance - Salvianauts unite and discuss more abstract aspects of the salvia experience. Disputes the existence and details of a Three Realities model of existence. Keeps good archives, though sometimes in the opinion of this author, borders on the eccentric. 52 members.
Daniel Siebert's website:
Though I find the website's design almost appalling, it must be said that the amount of information here is almost complete. Siebert was the first to isolate salvinorin A from salvia, and as a well-respected scientist, he can be considered the authority of salvia-related topics. Links to many published scientific articles can be found here, as well as images of the plant, its chemical makeup, and he also sells extracts, the Sage Goddess Emerald Essence Tincture, and more. The Salvia FAQ and user's guide from which most of the information that made up this writeup can be found here too.
Erowid's Salvia Trip Reports:
You cannot deny the experiences of others. This is the most indispensible resource of information about salvia on the internet.
2The Salvia Divnorum User's Guide.